Courier-Journal Editorial blasts Fletcher, Justices Lambert, Roach and McAnulty
The trashing of the state Supreme Court’s reputation is just about complete, thanks to Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
He’s the one who put his own young legal aide, John Roach, on the high court, with no convincing justification other than cronyism. Mr. Roach, who was 38 at the time and had no judicial experience, would not have appeared on any defensible list of the most appropriate candidates.
Chief Justice Joseph Lambert defended the appointment, even though the decisive entry on Mr. Roach’s résumé was his connection to the Governor. A month later, Mr. Lambert luxuriated in irony by naming a distinguished panel to encourage fairness and ethical behavior in this year’s judicial elections.
Now we find the same Mr. Roach using a low-down, dirty poll to campaign for a full term. His handlers at first wouldn’t even admit to the Lexington Herald-Leader that they had conducted the survey. Later, they called it “standard” stuff, while still refusing to show the public a copy or even name the polling firm.
A number of angry voters say they were asked in the phone survey such slimy questions as whether it matters that Mr. Roach’s opponent is “married with no children,” is “soft on crime” and “feels that judges can create laws if the legislature has failed to act.”
One question raised — that is to say, exploited — the hot-button issue of giving health care benefits to domestic partners of public university employees — even though that emotional matter may come before the court.
Mr. Roach has thus imported into judicial campaigning the sleaziest tactics of partisan politics that Justice Lambert promised to keep out. But their buddy, the Governor, put him where he could do it.
It was the Fletcher hiring scandal that prompted Justice Lambert to shame himself, and embarrass the court, by adding a gratuitous footnote in an unrelated case, helpfully explaining how the Governor could elude criminal charges in the merit hiring scandal. A lower court judge, invoking a similar theory, did put on hold the Governor’s case until he is impeached or out of office. Meanwhile, effective governance is on hold, too.
Then there’s the latest Fletcher court appointee, William McAnulty, who also is running for a full Supreme Court term and says he won’t recuse himself in matters involving the Governor if elected.
At his investiture, Mr. McAnulty repeated that he had “no regret” about asking Gov. Fletcher for the job and taking it. He could have waited and earned it at the ballot box, but he said becoming the first African-American justice was so important that “I don’t have time to wait.”
It’s Kentucky that waits, for someone who will promise to clean up Frankfort, and mean it.
Note: Justice Roach is opposed in the Nov. election by Judge Mary Noble of Lexington. Justice McAnulty is opposed in the Nov. election by Judge Ann Shake.